What values look like in action – behaviours
Whether they are written down or not, values define your brand and reputation. They need to be translated
into the behaviours which you need to be effective as a business, and which must be lived out in everyday
practice and experience.
Leaders and managers indicate to staff and customers what is important by what they actually say and
what they do – not what is written on the wall or in corporate literature.
Similarly, the words and deeds of all staff will be seen by others as an example of the culture of the
organisation in practice.
To make values live and stick, they need to be practised and visible in everything you say and do –
Clear organisation values will include a description of the sort of behaviour that is expected, which then
needs to be practised. Only then will the values be truly experienced by employees and customers. People
(including senior managers) should then be rewarded or held to account accordingly.
Many organisations describe these in standards of behaviour or competencies.
For two examples of how organisations (the NHS and Zappos) embed core values in staff behaviour, see here.
Linking values to behaviours
The first step in ensuring that values are lived out in practice is to clarify the behaviours that exemplify
specific values. Below are three exercises designed to help you and your team walk your talk.
Exercise 1: Identifying behaviours to support values
In a team, ask the following questions for each value and capture an example.
- How do I/we demonstrate this value well to customers in my/our work?
- How do I/we demonstrate this value well in my/our work with colleagues?
- How do I/we demonstrate this value well to my/our staff?
- Give an example of how you would like your manager to demonstrate this value.
- Give an example of how you expect your people to demonstrate that value.
- Think of someone who demonstrates this value well. What do they say/do?
- How would you expect all mangers to demonstrate this value?
- What could I/we do better to demonstrate this value?
Exercise 2: Experiencing values in practice
Pick a value to examine.
- Stage 1 (individual): imagine someone is demonstrating this value to you as a customer
or colleague. Write down everything that you hear them they saying or see them doing. How does it make
- Stage 2 (in pairs or groups): share your ideas and come up with a list of the
behaviours that have most impact.
Exercise 3: Living values
Decide which value you or your team want to practise/develop.
- Identify some practical examples of things you can do to practise this in the next
week/month and write these down as commitments.
- Record an example of each time you do this in practice and the result. Add examples of
other things you do or experience (or see/hear others do).
- At the end of the week/month, review these examples with your team members.
||How I will demonstrate this
||Impact/What I will do as a result
|Day 1 or Week 1
|Day 2 or Week 2
|Day 3 or Week 3
|Day 4 or Week 4
How to embed values and make them live
How can you embed values into corporate processes and communications?
Embedding values is about ensuring that your values are embedded in all your corporate processes and
communications. Below is a table with some starter thoughts and tips.
Do your organisation, team and individual objectives and measures describe ‘how’
each target should be met as well as what?
Do you have objectives and measures about
values that are important to your organisation?
- Engage your board and senior team in setting direction and
is most important – don’t delegate it to ‘business planning’.
- Describe organisation objectives in terms of ‘why’ and ‘how’, not
- Include objectives and measures which explicitly relate to your
- Include objectives which focus on improving behaviour and process,
- Ensure you know how each objective will be measured.
- Include measures which relate to customer and staff feedback, and
people are saying and doing as a result. Be clear about the standards of behaviour expected.
- Cascade organisation objectives to departments and teams – engage
translating cooperate objectives into the contribution their team can make. They need to
include ‘why’ this is important and how they will implement it, linked to what
and is felt to matter.
- Engage every part of the business so each team/section understands
contribution and can include objectives and measures which are relevant to them.
- Encourage staff to come up with objectives and development actions
link to their personal values, so they will be more motived to achieve them.
- Feedback and communicate results at every level in a way which
difference meeting (or failing to meet) the objective has made, linked to your purpose and
Does the appraisal system allow managers and individuals to measure behaviour in
both quantitative and qualitative ways? Is appraisal seen to matter/make a difference?
- If behaviour linked to values matters, it needs to sit at the heart
of your team and individual performance management and review process.
- Everyone needs to be appraised – from board members through senior
executives to casual or temporary staff, using the same standards of behaviour.
- Performance measurements/ratings need to reflect not just the
achievement of results, but how they were achieved.
- Include feedback from others about behaviour. This can be through a
formal or informal 360 feedback process, through asking the views of others and by
encouraging staff to bring their own examples of feedback received.
- If you are a manager, ask for feedback from your staff and others
about your behaviour and encourage your staff to do the same.
- If measurement against competencies is included in the appraisal
process, seek actual examples of how the competency has been met or exceeded – or not
Be specific about the behaviour and its impact (avoid ticking boxes).
- Consider a separate section of the appraisal on how staff have
demonstrated their commitment to the values of the organisation, and ensure the importance
of this is reflected in the overall rating.
- Encourage staff to come up with development actions which link to
their personal values.
- Carry out appraisal discussions in a way which reflects what is
important to each individual (not one size fits all). What do they need and value from you
to give their best?
- Remember appraisal is a continual process, not just once a year. Be
consistent, and use informal feedback and review on a regular basis.
Is good behaviour in terms of corporate values recognised; if so, how? Is ‘bad’
behaviour in terms of organisational values penalised or ignored?
- Champion tangible examples of individual and team behaviours which
demonstrate the values of your organisation and point out the difference this has made. Be
explicit about this.
- Informal recognition is as important as formal recognition. This can
be a ‘thank you’ or ‘well done’ whenever something has been done in
a way which aligns with
your corporate values. This reinforces positive behaviour.
- The opposite is equally true. Ignoring behaviour which goes against
your corporate or personal values sanctions the poor behaviour and says it is ok.
- Whatever forms of formal recognition you adopt, ensure these fit
with the values of the organisation. For example, if you have a value which is to ‘celebrate
success’, celebrate it in a way which is meaningful.
- Structure your rewards to reflect what is important to your
organisation. If big bonuses are paid to people who clearly don’t display the values
seeking, this will breed cynicism, demotivation and lack of trust. The same is true if
people are promoted despite their behaviour, or receive other perceived ‘rewards’,
training and other opportunities.
- Give recognition in a way which is authentic to your values and
which relates to the needs of the individual. This could be public or private praise or
giving someone extra time off for something important to them. ‘Different folks need
- Remember we show what is important to us in our behaviour. Make sure
this fits with what others expect.
Does your recruitment process attract and select the people who will demonstrate
your values and be motivated by them?
- Review your website and recruitment literature. What culture and
values does it demonstrate?
- Review your role profiles and person specs. Do they describe why the
job is important, and the personal styles or behaviours that will make a difference?
- Ensure your selection process assesses values as well as knowledge
- Consider using appropriate motivation or personality questionnaires
which highlight preference and choices.
- Ask for examples of why the candidate did something, not just what
- Build in an exercise or a presentation which asks them to consider
and demonstrate the organisation values and how they can deliver them in their role.
- Ensure all people involved in the process and the process itself
demonstrate your organisation values (such as ‘open and transparent’, ‘respect’, ‘listening’
- Caution – remember there are no good or bad values. The role of
selection is to assess best fit between what is important to an individual and what is
important to the role/organisation – and then seek evidence of behaviour which
Does your corporate brand demonstrate your values? Do your internal and external
communications to customers, staff and other stakeholders reflect your values?
- Your brand values help you to ensure that everything that you do,
whether written communications, design or photography, expresses the unique identity of your
business and helps differentiate you from competitors.
- Don’t only describe your values, demonstrate them in what you say
and how you say it. So if you say you are ‘human focused’ or ‘customer
friendly’ use a tone
which is open, friendly and approachable.
- If you have a value to be ‘open’, make sure information is open,
honest, transparent and available.
- If you have a value which is about ‘listening’ or ‘people’s views
matter’, ensure all your communications are two way and allow for feedback.
face-to-face at all levels.
- Ensure all communications reflect a consistent tone, whether
internal or external, formal or informal.
- Ensure verbal communications reflect your written communications.
- Train staff so they understand the style and tone your organisation
requires to reflect its values – whether in telephone calls, email, letter brochures
- Reflect what is important in what your reception looks like, the
capture on the wall, the colours you use, the office lay out and how people dress.
- Remember customers see your values not just in what you communicate
but how you communicate it. Customers speak to customers and modern media have shrunk the
world and speed of communication. Manage and protect your reputation.